Publishing Yourself – a Look at the Choices

We all have a book in us, so they say. Some, like Harper Lee, only one. Others, like Dickens, are a tad more prolific. Whatever your ambitions, once you start writing, you only have two options – keep it to yourself or publish and be damned.

In the good old days, the latter option meant that you have to convince a publisher that what you had was worth the considerable financial risk involved. Contrary to public belief, publishers don’t have a licence to print money. By the time they have paid their editors, rights assistants, salespeople, insurance, shipping, warehouses, designers, production, printers etc etc etc  they have to be ABSOLUTELY certain the book is going to sell. Publishers will carry out a return-on-investment (ROI) analysis to check whether the forecast sales will justify the cost involved in bring the book to market.

The first thing of course is deciding exactly what to write, and why.  Say – for example – you want to write a coursebook on English for professional footballers. It’s a brilliant concept, and you have some excellent ideas. You have a great track record and once taught the present continuous to Fabio Capello. You approach A Big ELT Publisher, and having run their ROI (not that you are likely to get that far) they politely inform you they will probably sell 250 copies, as their reps don’t visit football clubs. Assuming a price of £30 per copy, they won’t even begin to cover production costs. Even if they did publish your work, you would be very lucky to make more than a few tens of pounds in royalties, based on a net royalty of 10%. Your bright dream collapses.

But what if you published it as an eBook, yourself?  It’s more work, but more rewarding – in every sense of the word.  In the next couple of blogs we’ll take a quick peek at some of the options.

If you’re happy for your eBook to be available just in electronic format for Apple devices (and, let’s face it, there are a lot around – Apple has 50% of the tablet market, and that’s set to grow) you could do worse than use iBooks Author. This is free software from the app store or the iBooks Author website that allows you to create pretty cool eBooks, replete with photos, graphics and even animations. It was designed with educators in mind, and is template based, so (relatively) easy to use. Only problem is that you can only sell the finished product via the Apple iBookstore, but given Apple’s dominance I don’t think this is a huge deal breaker.

You can either sell just  through iBookstore – which may achieve much lower sales, but  you get to keep a whopping 70% of the sales price.  Or you can maximise your chances of selling your iBook by going through an aggregator, which basically markets iBookstore books through a variety of resellers – note you’re still going through Apple to start with.  An example is Bookwire. They take a cut of course – typically 45% of Apple’s price – but maximise your visibility.

So – rather than dreaming of 250 dead-tree books at £30, of which you receive about £1 a copy, you might actually sell ten times as many eBooks to footballers with international aspirations worldwide, bringing you a good deal more (though not quite in Fabio Capello’s ballpark).

Check out iBooks Author, then come back next week for a look at publishing for the Kindle.

Byron

3 thoughts on “Publishing Yourself – a Look at the Choices

  1. Ooh goody! I’m going to learn about ibooks now. I’m a glutton for punishment – just wrote the next in my EMP series and remain hopeful that people will love it. Reality is dawning though and I think I am coming around to the electronic world.

  2. Great post – really interesting overview of the choices.

    Do you know of anyone who has used iBook Author independently and had success? We have found that a lot of people find it tricky to use, and even the largest publishers are outsourcing some of the work to developers, as it just takes too long.

    Apple are so keen to get IBA take up that titles produced in IBA are given extra promotion on the iBookstore. An extra reason to use it I guess!

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